Clean Up Your Act – Five Easy Ways To Get Started

Missouri’s winter usually comes in January and February, so we’ve been experiencing a bit of colder weather here. I don’t mind it, though. These are perfect months for home and self-improvements. January has been no exception.

After watching The Minimalists’ newest documentary (Less Is Now) on Netflix, I decided to accept the challenge offered at the end to jump start my way back into regaining a life of simplicity. The challenge was to give away 465 things over one month. You start on day one, getting rid of one item. On day two, you get rid of two items. Day three, three items. You see where I’m going with this. I challenged many of my friends to do the same thing: Watch the documentary. Do the challenge.

Here’s what one friend said halfway through:

Thirty days is definitely not enough time to get rid of everything I need to, but I do feel less intimidated by the idea of tackling some of the most cluttered areas such as my boy’s closet, the garage, and my craft cabinet. Normally I would get so overwhelmed with going through stuff that I felt defeated and gave up. Forcing myself to ditch stuff has been liberating and it gets easier each day. I’ve started asking myself if it’s worth packing if I moved… that has helped.

Amanda M. – Springfield, MO

But some of us are overwhelmed by the idea of getting rid of nearly 500 items. Except, I don’t think we realize that an old filing cabinet offers thousands of single sheets to meet our decluttering win ratio. As did many of my friends, I found that the overwhelming urge to chuck it all was almost impossible to shake by the fifteenth day. Starting with one item, then two, then three, and so on propelled us into this beautiful world of letting go of what we don’t need.

I’ve written about letting go of emotional baggage, but it’s been a long time since I’ve discussed letting go of actual physical clutter. I guess because I started thinking, “There are just so many ways you can tell people to throw shit away.” But, clearly, from those taking on this challenge there’s still a need to advise and help.

I have LOVED this process and even more that my husband got on board too!

Dedee C. – Republic, MO

Let me be clear about one thing, though. I have little to no emotional attachment to material items. In my home, I can list about ten things I would grab should my house ever catch on fire and three of those are handmade quilts given to me by one person. So that narrows it down to seven items, and as I sat here trying to list them for my satisfaction, I couldn’t even come up with ten. So – my point – I don’t know if I can offer you much to address the psychological issues of holding on to things. I’m just not wired like that. Clutter gives me even more anxiety than I already have daily.

So, how do I do it? How do I easily get rid of clutter? Well, settle in. I’m about to tell you. But first, let me say I’m not perfect. I’m surprised that I quickly found items to discard or donate, but I, too, have been holding on to things. I journaled about why last night, and that’s another blog for another time, but I think I worked through some of the emotional reasons why I had gotten to the point where I was holding on to things I no longer needed.

My advice? Take baby steps. Small actions, taken every day, end up being the way to success. You don’t lose thirty pounds by fasting one day and running ten miles. This requires a series of small steps taken every day consistently to meet that goal. Living a life of simplicity is just like that: small steps, every day.

So here are some ways to get started:

  1. Do the challenge. If I told you to get 500 things to discard today, you’d say to me you don’t even know where to start or that you don’t have time. I’d believe either of those excuses. But, start at the beginning of one month and for each day, get rid of that number of items. And do it in February. It’s a short month.
  2. Pretend you are moving. Seriously. This really does work. People ask me how I can stay on top of this. Well, I’ve moved 18 times in 15 years. It’s hard to get emotional about stuff when you know you have to carry a box containing it. Plus, this Ted Talk always helps me focus, too. I love Graham Hill and Life Edited. He says “Edit ruthlessly.” I agree. Cut. The. Cord.
  3. Start with the easy stuff. My closet is always the first place I start. There’s even a fancy free printable calendar for you. The summary: Discard anything torn, has holes, or in need of repair you can’t do yourself. And by discard, I don’t mean “donate”. No one wants this stuff. Then decide what you will sell, donate, or give away to people you know. This includes things that are dated, no longer fit, or just haven’t been worn in over a year. We wear twenty percent of our clothing eighty percent of the time. So, if you still have stuff left, turn your hangers around so that the hook faces the wall. When you wear the item, rehang it correctly. You can discard whatever is still hanging with the hook facing the wall at the end of six months. You aren’t wearing it for some reason. And you won’t. So bite the bullet and let it go. I wrote about this way back in 2013 and it’s a good reminder.
  4. Move to the kitchen. My kitchen used to be a colossal cave of clutter, which I wrote about here. But not anymore. If you have more than two items of the same thing, you can declutter the extra items. My guy has four rubber spatulas (that I know about). He tells me he needs all of them. This is not true. The truth is, he doesn’t do his dishes every day, and he’s too unfocused to wash a spatula in the middle of preparing his meals. How do I know this? Because I have one. I’ve only had one since 2010, when I got rid of the other six. Is it convenient? Not always. (Love you, baby. Really.) But no one needs six rubber spatulas. No one.
  5. Move to the bathroom. I get that this is a tough one. Makeup and designer face creams are expensive. But I know I don’t need six daily moisturizers. And, well, you don’t either. So start discarding here. I repurposed a half bottle of shampoo by using it to shave my legs, but other than this, I was able to get rid of nearly thirty items.
  6. Check your meds. Expired medications and expired over the counter products can go. Just don’t toss them or flush them. Check with your local pharmacy on the best way to get rid of these items. Sometimes local fire departments will take them, as well as Wal-Greens.

These are quick ways to get started. You have to stay on top of this, and admittedly, I haven’t. So I will do the challenge for two months. I’ve already donated and thrown away over 1000 items since January 1st. And folks, I’m pretty organized. So, if I have this many items…um…so do you. (I get this is a very privileged statement. I will write about that later, too.)

As always, here’s your song for the day. It has absolutely nothing to do with letting go, but if you are cleaning you need a song to get yourself motivated.